Alan Wolfe, the professor of political science at Boston College, has written a reprise of Richard Hofstadter’s 1965 book Paranoid Style In American Politics for the October 25th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Hofstadter in the 1950’s attempted to explain the inner workings of the political mind, i.e., the conservative mind. For Hofstadter, conservative positions that are based on repealing laws instead of passing them are signs of paranoia.
There was a time not so long ago when I could select my own doctor. There was a time when I could choose my health insurance company. There was a time when everyone believed Marxism was a failure, an idea relegated to the ash heap of history. There was a time when class warfare occurred in other places far away, but Americans believed in opportunity, not sponging from others.
It has become fashionable among the cognoscenti to distinguish between Islam and Islamism. In fact, the Quilliam Foundation, focused on religious freedom, has promoted the distinction along with many quite reputable analysts of Islamic behavior. Presumably the latter believes in the imposition of faith over society by violence or law; while the former rejects violence conducting itself as any other religion might. This distinction has a hopeful ring to it since one may embrace the faith and abandon the ideology, thereby stabilizing presently unstable societies.
It has been argued in several of the intellectual journals in the West, that the aspiration for freedom is a universal goal, that most societies admire the freedoms we enjoy and wish to emulate us. As I see it, this proposition is one of the more pernicious illusions we entertain.
Here is a question that haunts America today. The distinguished historian Samuel Huntington has an answer based on founding documents and a national creed. But the answer of a decade ago seems weak, almost feckless, in a nation transformed by demography, educational inadequacy and historical amnesia. I readily admit this “new nation” is a new nation I don’t understand and am at a loss to describe. But try I will in any case.
President Obama’s speech to the nation laid out his plan for a limited attack against Syrian President Assad and his use of sarin gas. He made his case with passion. But in conclusion, he asked Congress to postpone its vote on military action because of an apparent Russian proposal to dispose of Syria’s poison gas in return for the prohibition of U.S. force.
Among baseball’s general managers it is often said that “the best trade is the one that was never made.” Although it is an obvious stretch to international affairs, it might also be said that the best government action is the one that isn’t taken.
The road to the future has been set by the Obama administration. According to a recent global survey of more than 38,000 people in 39 countries, more people see China as eventually surpassing or already having surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower, notwithstanding the fact that many more people hold a favorable view of the U.S. While it is difficult to assess why people embrace a point of view, the declinist psychology during the Obama years has clearly been a factor in shaping global opinion.
Whether directly or tacitly, nations offer signals about their strength, willingness to act, weakness, and appeasement. At the moment the United States is in a state of “preemptive surrender,” a condition manifest by several recent events.